Nacht und Träume D.827 (Franz Schubert) arr. Cello & Piano Sarah Acres (Cello) & Albert Combrink (Piano) Published in 1825 as Op.43 No 2, D.827 was composed in the winter of 1822/1823. It is remarkable in Schubert’s “Night Song” ouevre, and it remains one of the pinnacles of his output. Notoriously difficult to perform and […]
Nacht und Träume D.827 (Franz Schubert) arr. Cello & Piano
Sarah Acres (Cello) & Albert Combrink (Piano)
Published in 1825 as Op.43 No 2, D.827 was composed in the winter of 1822/1823. It is remarkable in Schubert’s “Night Song” ouevre, and it remains one of the pinnacles of his output. Notoriously difficult to perform and deceptive in its simplicity, it makes a perfect transition to the cello.
Nacht und Träume D.827 (Franz Schubert)
Text by Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (1779 – 1824) , “Nachtfeier”. German Lyrics:
Heil’ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder; Nieder wallen auch die Träume Wie dein Mondlicht durch die Räume, Durch der Menschen stille Brust. Die belauschen sie mit Lust; Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht: Kehre wieder, heil’ge Nacht! Holde Träume, kehret wieder!
Nacht und Träume D827 (Franz Schubert)
Text by Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (1779 – 1824) , “Nachtfeier”. English Translation by Abert Combrink
“Die Mainacht” Op. 43 No. 2 (Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)), written 1866, published 1879, text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748-1776) One of Brahms’ most beloved songs, this is one of the great, quintessential Romantic Period song-diary creations, an exquisitely crafted Nature-Nocturne. Brahms’s songs often use a modified strophic form, which seems to help Brahms […]
“Die Mainacht” Op. 43 No. 2 (Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)), written 1866, published 1879, text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748-1776)
One of Brahms’ most beloved songs, this is one of the great, quintessential Romantic Period song-diary creations, an exquisitely crafted Nature-Nocturne. Brahms’s songs often use a modified strophic form, which seems to help Brahms contain both the forward-looking, personal element of his art, as well as remaining firmly rooted in the Classical Tradition; the technique leads to a form at once grounded in the solid formal discipline and structure of the past, while imbuing it with the promise and potential of romantic variation and re-invention of the same thematic material – a technique of thematic development which Berlioz and Liszt were to take to new heights.
Brahms has a special gift in creating music of haunting recollection, that exquisite melancholy of what might have been, a love of which the memory is so painful that even the cooing of two doves can turn your heart to sobs.
The structure of the song is very clearly demarcated and designed to create maximum punch of emotion.
“Die Mainacht”: Analysis Outline
Line 1 & 2: A Material – The narator in the forest
Line 3 & 4: B Material – The Nightingale hints at the first sadness
Line 1 & 2: C Material – The cooing-dove theme turns into diminished harmonies at the height of grief.
Line 3: D Material – False ending of the verse
Line 4: E Material – The Climax of the song so far, heightened by punctuating either side of it with pauses (both written out and implied), making it function as a quasi- stand-alone verse.
Line 1 & 2: A Material – The narrator directly addresses the beloved in the melody of the opening.
Line 3: E Material – Brahms foreshortens the structure dramatically and skips Material B, C and D, cutting straight to the Climactic material E.
Line 4: E Material – after a short modulation, Brahms creates a double-climax ending, based on the falling arpeggio of the E Material
Coda: Again Brahms stretches the final words almost to the limit of the human breath, before the piano quietly winds down in material based on the opening broken chords.
Verse 1 Line 1 & 2: A Material – The narator in the forest
As often is the case with Brahmsian “walking” motives, the music starts on an inverted chord. The broken chord motive sets up a weary, trundling step, rising patiently from the depths until the voice summons enough energy to start its story. At first it describes a peaceful and tranquil evening walk – it could be ultimately uneventful.
Line 3 & 4: B Material – The Nightingale hints at the first sadness.
A bittersweet modulation describes the Nightingale’s “fluting” tones. That the night-wanderer is sad, is only revealed at the end of the verse when it lands in the tonic minor key.
Verse 2 Line 1 & 2: C Material – The cooing-dove theme turns into diminished harmonies at the height of grief.
E Flat Minor dramatically drops a major third and the doves coo in the first inversion on B Major. “Überhüllet” starts with the same melody of the opening, but soon rests and lengthened notes in the voice allow the yearning leaps in the piano-part to grow bigger and more dramatic, expressing the tormented emotions that erupt in a diminished chord with two arpeggios sweeping upward. The piano sighs on the diminished 7ths (G Natural to A Sharp) perfectly anticipates the “ich wende mich”, where the narrator is overcome with grief at the thought of the two birds happily chirruping in their love-nest. The German word “girret” perfectly recreates the sound of the doves.
Line 3: D Material – False ending of the verse.
The second verse seems to unravel as the narrator turns deeper into the darkness of the forest, and the dark night of the soul.
On the word “Schatten” (Shadows), the rhythms lengthen. The composer deliberately structured this apparent end of the verse as a suspension of time.
Line 4: E Material – The Climax of the song so far, heightened by punctuating either side of it with pauses (both written out and implied), making it function as a quasi- stand-alone verse.
Brahms delivers special magic on the final line of the verse. When the tears start flowing, Brahms paints a magnificent arch, with chromatic major and minor seconds both in the melodic line as well as the broken chord accompaniment that gently articulates an inner melody. But surprisingly, this rising climax line is abandoned. It does not “land” anywhere, reaches no true climax of grief nor any resolution.
Again the energy dissipates at the real end of the second verse. Long pauses stretch the harmonies as long as they can, right to the edge of losing all momentum.
Verse 3 Line 1 & 2: A Material – The narrator directly addresses the beloved in the melody of the opening.
Verse 3 starts with the same melody as the beginning, but the structural genius Brahms dispenses with the introduction, foreshortening the song. Brahms heightens the tension by transforming the accompaniment to rolling triplets. There might even be a hint of optimism on the word “find” where the note is lengthened to give it extra emphasis.
Line 3: E Material – Brahms foreshortens the structure dramatically and skips Material B, C and D, cutting straight to the Climactic material E.
Since the voice repeats the exact melody of the previous verse, the torment is churned up in the triplets of the piano part, making the harmonic clashes of major and minor seconds that much more emotionally driving.
Line 4: E Material – after a short modulation, Brahms creates a double-climax ending, based on the falling arpeggio of the E Material
Walter Frisch uses this climax as an example of Brahms’ particular Principle of Developing Variation to describe how Brahms “completes” the earlier climax that was left hanging.
A chordal postlude based on the opening “walking” broken chord quaver notes, gradually wind down the nocturnal walking song.
“Die Mainacht” Op. 43 No. 2 (Johannes Brahms), text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748-1776) – German Text:
Wann der silberne Mond durch die Gesträuche blinkt,
Und sein schlummerndes Licht über den Rasen streut,
Und die Nachtigall flötet,
Wandl’ ich traurig von Busch zu Busch.
Überhüllet von Laub girret ein Taubenpaar
Sein Entzücken mir vor; aber ich wende mich,
Suche dunklere Schatten,
Und die einsame Thräne rinnt.
Wann, o lächelndes Bild, welches wie Morgenrot
Durch die Seele mir strahlt, find’ ich auf Erden dich?
Und die einsame Thräne Bebt mir heißer die Wang’ herab!
“Die Mainacht” Op. 43 No. 2 (Johannes Brahms), text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748-1776) – Text translated into English by Albert Combrink:
When the silver moon flashes through the bushes,
And his slumbering light scatters across the lawn
And the nightingale flutes (warbles),
I wonder sadly from bush to bush.
Shrouded in greenery, a pair of doves coo
Their delight in front of me,
but I turn myself away, Search for darker shades,
And the lonely tears run.
When, o smiling image, which like Morning-red
Radiates through my soul, shall I find you on earth?
And the lonely tears tremble more hotly down my cheeks!
Download Free Sheet Music of “Die Mainacht” Op. 43 No. 2 (Johannes Brahms/Ludwig Hölty):
“Liebestreu”, op. 3 (Sechs Gesänge) no. 1 (1853) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Dedicated to Bettina von Arnim Text by Robert Reinick (1805 – 1852) , title unknown, from Lieder, in 2. Romanzen und Bilder, no. 26, published 1844 What a dashing young man Brahms was. When he met the famous pianist Clara Schumann […]
“Clearing Up” by one of the painters of the Düsseldorf School (with whom the poet of this song was associated,) Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910).
“Liebestreu”, op. 3 (Sechs Gesänge) no. 1 (1853) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Dedicated to Bettina von Arnim
Text by Robert Reinick (1805 – 1852) , title unknown, from Lieder, in 2. Romanzen und Bilder, no. 26, published 1844
Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, photographed in 1853
What a dashing young man Brahms was. When he met the famous pianist Clara Schumann and her composer husband Robert, the affinity and attraction was instant. Johannes and Robert had great admiration for each other. Indeed, the affinity between Clara and Johannes went beyond friendship, while – it seems – the love might have been spoken and written of in tender letters, the two never had a traditional relationship, even after Robert was committed to a mental asylum for what appears to have been some form of paranoid schizophrenia.
Lisel Mueller wrote a touching poem on the matter:
“Liebestreu” was definitely not the first song that Brahms had composed, but it was the first he allowed to be published. By all accounts the song was written before he met Clara Schumann, but the way in which it fore-shadows their relationship is quite touching. He published it after his life had become intertwined inextricably with the Schumanns. “Brahms was distraught when Schumann was taken away; but he couldn’t help loving Clara. He moved into the house at Düsseldorf, taking over Schumann’s meticulously kept household book, helping to look after the children – and waiting for Clara to come back from her endless tours. Brahms and Clara wrote to each other constantly. By the end of 1854, their intimacy was so advanced that Brahms felt able to end one of his letters to her with a quote from the Arabian Nights: “Would to God that I were allowed this day instead of writing this letter to you to repeat to you with my own lips that I am dying of love for you. Tears prevent me from saying more.”We don’t know how Clara replied because, many years later, they returned their letters to each other, and she destroyed hers. We also don’t know whether they ever became lovers; probably not – the guilt would have been too overwhelming.”[Steven Isserlis: The Guardian,
Given this backdrop of emotional turmoil – a love that just would not die, but was not acceptable in the eyes of society at the time – it is very tempting to place Brahms at the center of the song, the protagonist in dialogue with his mother. It is a true dialogue song, with the speaking voices of each distinguished in style, rhythm and harmony.
The mother’s speaking voice is anxious and repeats words, creating a sense of urgency and revealing that not only is the young lover in great emotional anguish, but that the loving parent is distraught at witnessing the child’s pain. Despite the Pianissimo opening, the atmosphere is ominous and filled with dread. The drama launches immediately: dissonant harmony unsettles the minor chord, already presented in an unsettling 2nd inversion, and 2-against-3 rhythms creating a stormy-sea on which the mother’s entreaties lurch upward in two anticipations on “O versenk, o versenk” before launching to the top of the wave on “Leid”, before sinking down to the bottom of the singing range, as if illustrating the sadness sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
But the triplets rise and bubble to the surface, anticipating the description by the daughter of her grief rising ever more to the surface. The instruction Träumerisch (Dreamily) distinguishes the younger speaker’s voice from that of the mother. Hushed Pianissimo with fewer breath-gasping commas than the mother’s emotional plea and longer lines, give the daughter’s line a haunted feeling, emphasised by some emotional chromatic writing.
The piano provides the surface of the water on which the sorrow of the voice gently floats – as if the daughter wants to appear in control of the emotions – until the two separate on the word “Leid” (Sorrow) and rise to a major conclusion.
Verse 2 repeats the same structure as the first, albeit more intense on repetition. With a Poccopiù mosso,we return to the urgent, gasping, repeated call of the mother to break the sorrow out of her heart. Again, the child soothes the mother’s anguish in a calm and quiet response, saying that while a flower might die when broken off its stem, true love will not die as quickly.
Ancora più mosso, aggitato drives the drama swiftly forward. The mother repeats her same melody, urging the child that fidelity is just a word, and that she should respond to the lover’s inconstancy by throwing hers to the wind. The conflict between mother and daughter has been indirect up to this point in the song, with each inhabiting their own tonal space and character; the mother distraught, gasping, short of breath, and the daughter dreamily distracted and introvert.
As if woken from a dream, or perhaps finally allowing the tumbling of the walls that held at bay the grief, the child transforms the mother’s melody to the major, as she describes how her fidelity and love is as strong as a rock, stronger than a real rock which can be cleft by the wind. The angst-ridden beauty of this outburst is further heightened by a falling third harmony in the voice, and a disturbing psychological unraveling illustrated by a rising chromatic line in the piano, and a falling melodic line, where the commas of the mother’s speaking style are not only incorporated, but heightened into painful silences. Yonatan Malin describes the effect of these overlapping harmonies and motives as “Scwhebende zeit”, or floating time. [Malin]
The song “imparts a sense of urgency and darkness, but also of tender and tormenting consolation, Brahms’ music betraying anything but his supposedly reserved emotional manner.” [Robert Cumings]
Thomas Moran (1837-1926): “The Angry Sea”
About the Poet:
Robert Reinick (22 February 1805 – 7 February 1852) was a German painter and poet, associated with the Düsseldorf school of painting. Reinick was born in Danzig (Gdańsk) and died in Dresden.
“Liebestreu”, op. 3 (Sechs Gesänge) no. 1 (1853) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897):
Original German text by Robert Reinick (1805 – 1852) , title unknown, fromLieder, in 2. Romanzen und Bilder, no. 26, published 1844.
“O versenk’, o versenk’ dein Leid, mein Kind, in die See, in die tiefe See!”
“Ein Stein wohl bleibt auf des Meeres Grund, mein Leid kommt stets in die Höh’.”
“Und die Lieb’, die du im Herzen trägst, brich sie ab, brich sie ab, mein Kind!”
“Ob die Blum’ auch stirbt, wenn man sie bricht, treue Lieb’ nicht so geschwind.”
“Und die Treu’, und die Treu’, ‘s war nur ein Wort, in den Wind damit hinaus.”
“O Mutter und splittert der Fels auch im Wind, Meine Treue, die hält ihn aus.”
die hält, die hält, ihn aus.
“Liebestreu”, op. 3 (Sechs Gesänge) no. 1 (1853) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897):
English translation by Albert Combrink of the German text by Robert Reinick (1805 – 1852) , title unknown, fromLieder, in 2. Romanzen und Bilder, no. 26, published 1844.
“Oh sink, oh sink your sorrow, my child, in the sea, in the deep sea!”
“A stone might well rest well at the bottom of the ocean, but my sorrow, though, comes again up to the surface.”
“And the love that you carry in your heart, break it off, break it off, my child!”
“Even if the flower dies when one breaks it off, true love not so fast.”
“And constancy, and fidelity, ’tis only a word; out into the wind with it!”
“Oh, Mother, even if the rock splinters in the wind, My constancy will withstand.”
Download Free Sheet Music of “Liebestreu”, op. 3 (Sechs Gesänge) no. 1 (1853) by Johannes Brahms
“Liebestreu”, Op. 3No. 1 (Brahms) performed by Anja Harteros (soprano) & Wolfram Rieger (piano)
“Liebestreu”, Op. 3No. 1 (Brahms) performed by Bernarda Fink (mezzo-soprano) & Roger Vignoles (piano)
“Liebestreu”, Op. 3No. 1 (Brahms) performed by László Fenyö (Cello) & Kirill Krotov (Piano)
This exquisite song was dedicated to Bettina von Arnim (the Countess of Arnim) (4 April 1785 – 20 January 1859), born Elisabeth Catharina Ludovica Magdalena Brentano, a German writer and novelist.
Bettina (as well: Bettine) Brentano was a writer, publisher, composer, singer, visual artist, an illustrator, patron of young talent, and a social activist. She was the archetype of the Romantic era’s zeitgeist and the crux of many creative relationships of canonical artistic figures. Best known for the company she kept, she numbered among her closest friends Goethe, Beethoven, and Pückler and tried to foster artistic agreement among them. Many leading composers of the time, including Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johanna Kinkel, and Johannes Brahms, admired her spirit and talents. As a composer, von Arnim’s style was unconventional, molding and melding favorite folk melodies and historical themes with innovative harmonies, phrase lengths, and improvisations that became synonymous with the music of the era. She was closely related to the German writers Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim: the first was her brother, the second her husband. Her daughter Gisela von Arnim became a prominent writer as well.
“O kühler Wald” Op.72 No.3, (Fünf Gesänge 1877) (Music: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Original Key A Flat Major. Text: Clemens Maria Wenzeslaus von Brentano (1778-1842) , no title, 1802, published 1844. The Composer A product of Brahms in maturity, the Op.72 set of 5 songs appeared 6 months after the triumphant premiere. The 44-year-old composer was living […]
“O kühler Wald” Op.72 No.3, (Fünf Gesänge 1877)
(Music: Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). Original Key A Flat Major. Text: Clemens Maria Wenzeslaus von Brentano (1778-1842) , no title, 1802, published 1844.
A product of Brahms in maturity, the Op.72 set of 5 songs appeared 6 months after the triumphant premiere. The 44-year-old composer was living comfortably off publishers’ royalties. He kept a comfortable flat in Vienna and spent holidays in Italy. In over 380 songs he created a vast body of work in the genre only surpassed by Schubert. He had a deep love for Clara Schumann, the wife of his dearest friend Robert Schumann, but even after the sad demise and death of Robert in a mental asylum, this love was never consummated. The poet walking in the forest communing with the forest – the only creature that seems to understand and echo his songs, might as well be a prototype of Brahms himself.
The first performance of this song was given by Adele Assman in Breslau on October 22, 1878.
This song contains many of the elements of the preoccupations of Romanticism: an absent lover, a forest in which nature not only contains and reflects the emotional state of the protagonist, but almost seems to become a living, breathing, understanding character in itself. The echo in the forest even understands the songs of the poet, blown hither and thither, as they are. Brahms was known for his regular walks in the Black Forest where he claimed to have often conceived themes for his works – the Horn Trio is a famous example.
“Evening” – Kaspar David Friedrich
A snapshot of a remembered forest, rather than a vivid nature painting, the song opens with gently plodding crotchet chords, not even rooted firmly enough in reality to warrant a root-position. The moment the tonality is established, Brahms adds the major 6th, immediately placing it in the unhurried explorations of the emotional interior worlds encountered in the Wagner of the Wesendonck Lieder, the Nachtgesang from “Tristan und Isolde” and the Mahler of the closing pages of “Das Lied von der Erde”. The beloved is long-gone or long-dead. The forest might not even exist anymore. But this is not the sickly suicidal torment of French Romanticism of Hugo or Flaubert, nor the threatening home of evil spirits such as the Erl-king or the Irrlicht of Schubert’s “Winterreise”. There is no drama or raging resentment in this forest.
If anything, there is a sense of “Waldeinsamkeit” – that almost untranslatable German word that seems to crop up in all study of German Lieder:
The slow tempo of the song (Langsam), is stretched to its limits between the two verses: enharmonic changes and the longest sustained note-values seem to suspend time as the poet examines the depth of his emotions:
Verse 2 varies the accompaniment by turning the chords of the opening harmony into slow, rumbling broken chords, at once providing momentum and the movement of undergrowth rustling in the wind, and simultaneously rooting the plants strongly enough in the Black Forest soil so that no storm or natural calamity can destroy the peace. In fact, the most dramatic “tone-painting” in the poem seems to occur at the end, where Brahms chooses to repeat the poet’s words, which describe how the songs have long since dissipated in the wind. Brahms lengthens the 3/2 time signature right at the end, to a lazier, disjointed and timeless 4/2. The final chords have an extraordinary visual effect as well. It is conclusively, THE END.
“O kühler Wald” Op. 72 No.3 (Johannes Brahms) Text / Lyrics by Clemens von Brentano (1778 – 1842) in German
O kühler Wald,
Wo rauschest du,
In dem mein Liebchen geht?
Wo lauschest du,
Der gern mein Lied versteht?
Im Herzen tief,
Da rauscht der Wald,
In dem mein Liebchen geht,
In Schmerzen schlief
Die Lieder sind verweht.
“O kühler Wald” Op. 72 No.3 (Johannes Brahms) Text / Lyrics by Clemens von Brentano (1778 – 1842) in English (Translated by Albert Combrink)
O cool forest,
Where do you rustle,
In whom my darling walks?
Where do you listen,
Who understands my song so well?
In the depth of my heart
There rustles the forest
In which my darling walks;
In pain sleeps
The songs have been blown away
The sheet Music:
Download Free Sheet Music of Fünf Gesänge 1877 by Johannes Brahms, a set of 5 songs of which the third is “O kühler Wald” Op. 72 No.3, in the original key of A Flat Major: Brahms 5 Songs op.72 (Complete Set)
Download Free Sheet Music of “O kühler Wald” Op. 72 No.3, (Fünf Gesänge 1877) by Johannes Brahms in B Flat Major: Brahms Op.72 No.3Bflat
See below a phonetic pronunciation chart below taken from:
Paton, John Glenn, ed., “Gateway to German Lieder: An Anthology of German Song and interpretation, Volume 2”, Alfred Music Publishing, 2000, P.146
About the Poet Clemens Brentano:
Clemens Brentano, (born Sept. 9, 1778, Ehrenbreitstein, near Koblenz, died July 28, 1842, Aschaffenburg, Bavaria) German poet, novelist, and dramatist. He was one of the founders of the Heidelberg Romantic school, which emphasized German folklore and history. With his brother-in-law Achim von Arnim, he published Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn), a collection of German folk lyrics (including successful imitations of folk style) that became an important inspiration to lyric poets and composers such as Gustav Mahler. Among his most successful works are his fairy tales, particularly Gockel, Hinkel and Gackeleia (1838). The greater part of his poetic works remained unpublished during his lifetime and was published (with this poem amongst them) only after his death, by his sister, Emilie Brentano.
À Chloris (1916): Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) In Greek mythology, the name Chloris (, from khloros, meaning “greenish-yellow”, “pale green”, “pale”, “pallid”, or “fresh”) appears in a variety of contexts. Some clearly refer to different characters; other stories may refer to the same Chloris, but disagree on details. Chloris was a Nymph associated with spring, flowers […]
À Chloris (1916): Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
“As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses: I was Chloris, who am now called Flora” – from “Fasti”, a six-book Latin poem written by the Roman poet Ovid and published in 8 AD. Detail from “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli. Painted ca. 1482.
In Greek mythology, the name Chloris (, from khloros, meaning “greenish-yellow”, “pale green”, “pale”, “pallid”, or “fresh”) appears in a variety of contexts. Some clearly refer to different characters; other stories may refer to the same Chloris, but disagree on details. Chloris was a Nymph associated with spring, flowers and new growth, believed to have dwelt in the Elysian Fields. Roman authors equated her with the goddess Flora, suggesting that the initial sound of her name may have got altered by Latin speakers (a popular etymology). Myths had it that she was abducted by (and later married) Zephyrus, the god of the west wind (which, as Ovid himself points out, was a parallel to the story of his brother Boreas and Oreithyia). She was also thought to have been responsible for the transformations of Adonis, Attis, Crocus, Hyacinthus and Narcissus into flowers.
Chloris: Jean-Jacques Pradier (1790-1852), Musée de Toulouse
From One Poet to Another
French Baroque poet Théophile de Viau (1590-1626), being both Protestant and libertine, was sentenced to being burned alive by the Jesuits, but managed to have his sentence reduced to banishment. A non-conformist to the last, he nonetheless shared the Baroque pre-occupation with ancient Greece and Rome. A simple classicist poem recalls the writing of Ovid. The restraint of de Viau’s writing, coupled with rich fantasies of idealised ancient civilisations appealed to romantic composers of the 19th century.
“Love’s Messenger”, Marie Spartali Stillman, 1885
French composers in particular had a colouristic sense that would flesh out the Classical myths. Looking far East – Ravel’s Shéhérazade (1903) – or far back – Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (1912) –reflects the French’s gaze outside of themselves. How Reynaldo Hahn decided to set this particular Grecian fantasy while World War 1 was still raging, appears out of sync. Yet, this seems to be exactly what Hahn was about as a person and a composer: aloof, cool, and somehow unaffected.
The opening is startling. A Baroque walking bass instantly transporting us to an imagined ancient place; a sculpture frozen in marble; another L’heure exquisse which Hahn was so brilliant at calling into existence with one delicate stroke of the brush.
A Basso Continuo treads gently, not into an Ancient Greek Garden, but rather into a painting of one, while a courtly Recorder player recalls Pan lazily lying in the sun somewhere, while Chloris does little other than walk around stroking the foliage and inspiring great love-poems. Hahn recreates not the world of Ancient Greece, but repaints the Baroque in French colours by a deliberate evocation of the great spirit of the Baroque, Johann Sebastian Bach. And not any Bach, but particularly the Bach of supernatural stillness and perfection that is almost beyond description.
A simple piano arrangement of the Bach “Air on a G String”
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675): Detail from “Lady writing a letter” (1666) National Gallery of Art, Washington
The voice does not take part in this orchestral dialogue between the walking Bass and the heavenly melody, but floats between the two, an unhurried ghostly observer, less the love-struck narrator and more the poet, taking time to imagine the scene, in between slow, deliberate dips of the quill in the ink-well.
Far from being a simple pastiche as many writers assert, including even Graham Johnson, I find this a beautiful homage to Bach, a homage to idealised love, an escape from the horrific World War 1 Europe, an escape away from a conservative, racist, Catholic Paris of the closeted homosexual composer unable to express his love like this, to an imagined place, where all might have been – and might yet again be – simply perfect. The music pulls us to another place. The tread of the bass line again providing a soothing repetition that is comforting in a quasi-minimalist fashion. I had the experience in reverse, when performing this song at the Casa Labia Cultural Center in Cape Town, under a statue of three marble ladies. The way the sun caught the stone, the light in the venue, the beautifully delicate and responsive piano, as well as performing the song with an added element of aloofness by replacing the human voice with that of the cello, it seemed not that we were pulled into antiquity. Antiquity had unexpectedly stepped in to our time, and stopped it. And our time was all the better for the intrusion.
Sarah Acres and Albert Combrink performing at Casa Labia
Download Free PDF Sheet Music of Reynaldo Hahn’s “À Chloris” in E Major
Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée (Reynaldo Hahn) ~~”The dark and abyss have a deep mystery, That no mortal has penetrated” – Victor Hugo Written in 1922, the year of the death of Hahn’s life-long friend and one time lover – the only lover he ever seems to have had – Marcel Proust, Quand […]
Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée (Reynaldo Hahn)
~~”The dark and abyss have a deep mystery, That no mortal has penetrated” – Victor Hugo
Ivan Aivazovsky: “The Black Sea at Night” 1879
Written in 1922, the year of the death of Hahn’s life-long friend and one time lover – the only lover he ever seems to have had – Marcel Proust, Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée sets an expansive text by Victor Hugo. It sings of enlightenement and transfiguration; of the comfort of the darkness of a starless night, and the welcoming embrace of the waves. The collective subconscious responds to the idea of the peace of death in the ocean, submerging all earthly and human woes and pain in it’s depths. There is a desire for a soaring freedom, flying free below the skies and above the earth with its graves.
Hahn responds with an Oceanic Nocturne that is quintessentially French, and quintessentially our dearest Reynaldo. At the same time a tender somnolescent Berceuse and a watery barcarolle, ripples of “3 against 2” patterns suggest an ocean, restless but not turbulent. This is not Debussy’s oceans with titanic waves and crests and exhilirating splashes in your face.
A Berceuse is a lullaby usually in 6/8 time or in triple meter, often alternating tonic and dominant harmonies; since the intended effect is to put a baby to sleep, wild chromaticism would be somewhat out of character. A Barcarole (from the Italian barca or ‘boat’) is a folk song sung by Venetian gondoliers, characterized by a rhythm reminiscent of the gondolier’s stroke, almost invariably a moderate tempo 6/8 meter.
Graham Johnson’s description of Si mes vers avaient des ailes seems as apt here:
When the night is not studded with stars Come rock yourself on the waves of the sea;
~~“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness.”(Monseigneur Bienvenu in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo)
The key is D major, surprisingly bright for a Night Song, but seems in keeping with the tender repose which is longed for. Of course, there is a darker side to this story. Victor Hugo wrote a set of poems in 1835: Chants du crépuscule, included many love lyrics to a certain Juliette Drouet (1806-1883). In the previous years, Hugo’s wife apparently tired of his vast ego and endless childbearing, falling into an affair with the particularly pointed critic Sainte-Beuve.
Juliette Drouet (1806-1883)
“Tormented by his wife’s coldness and his own inordinate sexual cravings, Hugo fell in love with the young actress and courtesan Juliette Drouet and took it upon himself to “redeem” her. He paid her debts and forced her to live in poverty, with her whole being focused entirely upon him. For the next 50 years Juliette followed the poet wherever he went. She lived in his shadow, unable to take a step without his permission, confined to a room here, a mere hovel there, but always near the magnificent houses where Hugo settled with his family. She lived henceforth solely for the poet and spent her time writing him letters, of which many thousands are extant.”[Ionesco, Eugene, Hugoliad, or, The grotesque and tragic life of Victor Hugo, New York: Grove Press, 1987.]
Some, it would seems require more redemption from the dark waves than others.You, ask the nocturnal world
for peace to your desert heart!
Request a drop in the urn!
Request a song to this concert!
Download Free Sheet Music of “Quand la nuit n’est pas étoilée” (Reynaldo Hahn/Victor Hugo)
D’un Prison (Reynaldo Hahn) Sarah Acres (Cello), Albert Combrink (Piano) Live Amateur Video recorded at the Casa Labia Cultural Center, Muizenberg, Cape Town, 13 June 2013 This version for Cello and Piano Arranged by Sarah Acres & Albert Combrink Website: Sarah Acres – http://www.facebook.com/CellistInTheCity Website: Albert Combrink – http://www.albertcombrink.com Twitter: @albertcombrink Read more about the […]
D’un Prison (Reynaldo Hahn) Sarah Acres (Cello), Albert Combrink (Piano)
Live Amateur Video recorded at the Casa Labia Cultural Center, Muizenberg, Cape Town, 13 June 2013
D’un Prison (1892) (Reynaldo Hahn, 1874 – 1947) to poetry by Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896) A disturbingly static song at first hearing, D’un Prison paints a picture of a man who has an epiphany. Neither the naked Archimedes’ “Eureka” nor Oprah’s “Aha” moment, this is the quiet inner slice of time of a man […]
D’un Prison (1892) (Reynaldo Hahn, 1874 – 1947) to poetry by Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896)
A disturbingly static song at first hearing, D’un Prisonpaints a picture of a man who has an epiphany. Neither the naked Archimedes’ “Eureka” nor Oprah’s “Aha” moment, this is the quiet inner slice of time of a man who looks up over the roofs of Paris, and realises – perhaps for the first time – how simple life actually is, and asks himself what it was all for. On what had he spent his youth?
“My God, My God, life is so simple and quiet”.
Venezuelan born Reynaldo Hahn is regarded by some as a genius, by others as a “Minor Master”. Hahn‘s setting of this powerful poem is often negatively compared to the masterwork by Gabriel Fauré, published 4 years later in 1896. The Fauré song has a pent-up despair, anguish and extraordinary regret that is simply absent form Hahn’s version. Instead of a picture of a man who sees his life ruined, Hahn creates the most tender reverie, an intimate and exquisite moment, if not quite a L’heure exquise. Hahn has the ability to use time and space rather than mere melody and harmony as essential ingredients in the creation of a song.
Gustave Caillebotte, Jeune homme à la fenêtre (Young man at the window), c. 1875
The piano sets up a hypnotic rocking motion, which is the main accompaniment figure of the entire song. For two verses, he merely describes what he sees: Blue sky, a gentle bell ringing far away, a branch of a tree.
The moment of epiphany is undramatic. The voice stretches lazily up the stave, but there is no drama. The piano cradles the voice in its rocking arms and the moment is anchored in solid and undramatic bass octave bells.
The poet then asks, in direct voice, “What have you done with your youth?” and Hahn responds with a recitative, sparse and without angst, even if the dynamic marking is a healthy Forte.
As if even this conversation with God, this moment of self-awareness, is too much, Hahn retreats. He repeats the first stanza, returning to the hypnotic pattern of the opening. But this, this is self-hypnosis, since Hahn deliberately felt unhappy with ending the poem at the moment of brutal self-honesty. Like a 19th Century Arvo Pärt, he seems to find comfort in the bell-like repetition of the quasi-minimalist final bars, an exercise in static peace.
One might be tempted to investigate Hahn’s personal life, and read too much into the song. However, the fact that Hahn was a closeted homosexual and his only documented relationship or physical intimacy with anyone – despite numerous offers – was a two year long secret relationship with Marcel Proust. Excessively shy? Excessively closeted? A career disrupted by the Nazis and ended too early by a brain tumor, few composers of the French mélodie displayed such fine craftsmanship, remarkable beauty, and originality in works which so perfectly capture the insouciance of la belle époque.
Rubrique Visite: Cours Albert
Download free Sheet Music of “D’un Prison” (1892) by Reynaldo Hahn & Paul Verlaine
D’un Prison (1892) (Reynaldo Hahn): Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto & Daniel Blumenthal (Piano)
D’un Prison (1892) (Reynaldo Hahn): Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) & Jérôme Ducros (Piano)
D’un Prison (1892) (Reynaldo Hahn) Sung in 1935 by Tino Rossi
Tino Rossi (April 29, 1907 – September 26, 1983) was a singer and film actor.
Born Constantino Rossi in Ajaccio, Corsica, France, he became a tenor of French cabaret and one of the great romantic idols of his time. Gifted with an operatic voice, a “Latin Lover” persona made him a movie star as well. Over his career, Rossi made hundreds of records and appeared in more than 25 films, the most notable of which was the 1953 production, Si Versailles m’était contédirected by Sacha Guitry. His romantic ballads had women swooning and his art-songs by Jules Massenet (1842-1912), Reynaldo Hahn (1875-1947), and other composers helped draw sold-out audiences wherever he performed.
D’un Prison (1896) by Gabriel Fauré / Verlaine, sung by Gérard Souzay & Dalton Baldwin
“D’un Prison” (Paul Verlaine): Original French Text published without title in “Sagesse III” No.6 (1880)
Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit,
Si bleu, si calme!
Un arbre, par-dessus le toit,
Berce sa palme.
La cloche, dans le ciel qu’on voit,
Un oiseau sur l’arbre qu’on voit
Chante sa plainte.
Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, la vie est là
Simple et tranquille.
Cette paisible rumeur-là
Vient de la ville.
Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
Pleurant sans cesse,
Dis, qu’as-tu fait, toi que voilà,
De ta jeunesse ?
Hahn repeats the first verse
“D’un Prison” (Paul Verlaine) Translated into English by Albert Combrink as “In Prison”
The sky is above the roof,
So blue, so calm!
A shaft, above the roof,
Cradles his palm.
The bell in the sky we see,
A bird on the tree we see
Sings his complaint.
My God, my God, life is so
Simple and quiet.
This tranquil murmur then comes
From the city.
What have you done, O you who here
Crying without ceasing
Say, what did you do, you, there,
with your youth?
Je te veux (Music: Erik Satie (1897) / Text: Henry Pacory) A figure that stands aloof and isolated from mainstream French Composers, Satie remains as enigmatic as ever. Undoubtedly a composer of great substance, he was nonetheless capable of writing strange and deliberately “meaningless” music. His rebelliousness makes him a very interesting figure. He claimed to despise […]
Je te veux (Music: Erik Satie (1897) / Text: Henry Pacory)
A figure that stands aloof and isolated from mainstream French Composers, Satie remains as enigmatic as ever. Undoubtedly a composer of great substance, he was nonetheless capable of writing strange and deliberately “meaningless” music. His rebelliousness makes him a very interesting figure. He claimed to despise the Impressionists with their fanciful nature-evocations, parodying them with titles of his own such as “Three pieces in the shape of a pear” and instructing musicians to play a certain passage “Like a nightingale with a toothache.” While hating conformism he nonetheless had deep respect and affection for Debussy and is seen, along with Cocteau, as the spiritual father ofLes Six.
Portrait of Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (17 May 1866 – 1 July 1925) – who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884: Painted by his then-mistress Suzanne Valadon (23 September 1865 – 7 April 1938)
In the late 1880’s Satie joined the Rosicrucian church, and was introduced to the mystical strains of Gregorian and plainsong chant that would permeate his music for the rest of his life. He quickly bored of the Rosicrucians, though, creating his own church, called “L’Eglise Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur.” An “official” manifesto functioned primarily as soapbox upon which to rant against music critics. How much of his religious feelings were real, or merely another form of rebellion against the establishment, remains unclear. Nevertheless, by the early 1890’s Satie was drawn more and more to the Bohemian lifestyle of the Montmartre, particularly the nightlife in the cafés and bars. He accompanied singers for a living, and improvised waltzes for patrons in the then famous Le Chat Noir, and the Auberge du Clou (where he met Debussy in 1891).
Le Chat Noir was a real 19th-century Cabaret, meaning “A house of entertainment”, in the bohemian Montmartre district of Paris. It was first opened on 18 November 1881 at 84 Boulevard Rochechouart by the impresario Rodolphe Salis, and closed in 1897 not long after Salis’ death (much to the disappointment of Picasso and others who looked for it when they came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900). Le Chat Noir is thought to be the first modern cabaret: a nightclub where the patrons sat at tables and drank alcoholic beverages while being entertained by a variety show on stage, introduced by a master of ceremonies who interacted with people he knew at the tables. Perhaps best known now by its iconic Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen poster art, in its heyday it was a bustling nightclub that was part artist salon, part rowdy music hall. The cabaret published its own humorous journal Le Chat Noir, which survived until 1895.
According to its then owner, Salis: “Le Chat Noiris the most extraordinary cabaret in the world. You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris, meeting there with foreigners from every corner of the world.” And what a wonderful place it must have been! Imagine dining with Debussy while Satie sat at the piano!
Tournée du Chat Noir de Rodolphe Salis (Colour Lithograph 1896) by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen:
Here he also met the one real love of his life, the painter Suzanne Valadon (23 September 1865 – 7 April 1938), proposing to her the very next morning after they met and spent their first night together. Born Marie-Clémentine Valadon, she became the first woman painter admitted to the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. The daughter of an unmarried laundress,Valadon became a circus acrobat at the age of fifteen, but a year later, a fall from a trapeze ended that career. In the Montmartre quarter of Paris, she pursued her interest in art, first working as a model for artists, observing and learning their techniques, before becoming a noted painter herself.
Henry de Toulouse Lautrec: “Suzanne Valadon, (The hangover)” 1896
She modeled for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (who gave her painting lessons), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, with whom she later had an affair. Quite the rebel she was! A free spirit, she wore a corsage of carrots, kept a goat at her studio to “eat up her bad drawings”, and fed caviar (rather than fish) to her “good Catholic” cats on Fridays.
Read a thoughtful analysis of her painting of Satie HERE.
Edgar Degas, “Cabaret” 1877
Satie also had a working relationship with light music singer Vincent Hyspa (1865-1938) and they moved from gig to gig together. Satie not only wrote songs for him and set some of his writings to music, including Tendrement, Un dîner à l’Élysée, Chez le docteur, L’Omnibus automobile, Air fantôme. The style of these songs remind one of Je te veux, and it is not too far-fetched to suggest that the song was written for him, or at least with his voice and cabaret style of singing in mind.
The lyrics of the song are by Henry Pacory (of whom not a great deal is known).
Satie’s Je te veux seem to sum up the period perfectly:
~~ It is a gentle Parisian Waltz, like the waltzes and quintessentially French style of Le Chat Noire cabarets and the many singers like Hyspa whom Satie counted as friends and colleagues.
~~ Pop-song construction: Verses and refrains, and a short coda, make it easily digestible at first hearing.
~~ One even wonders if it was used as one of Satie’s numbers at the Cabaret. The piano melody doubles the notes of the voice 100% of the time. In Schumann Lieder it is seen as a liability, complicating matters of rhythm and intonation. In a smokey late-night cabaret where there is a lot of noise, performers who might have had a drink or two, and only gas-light and candles to shine on the sheet music (if you weren’t playing from memory), or the attention of the musicians might have been more on the talent in the room rather than their co-performers, it would be a God-send.
Edgar Degas, “Cafe Concert Singer”, 1878
~~ The tumultuously passionate and short-lived love-affair with Valadon, complete with a less than exalted text of passion – “That your body is mine, And all my flesh is yours” – which stretches the imagination like a nylon stocking, without tearing it.
~~ And while remaining within the bounds of societal norms, eroticism is still in the air. A langorous melody seems to suggest that, if both parties were agreeable, Le Chat Noire indeed rented its upstairs rooms to patrons. Discreet and affordable. Even to struggling gigging musicians like Satie and Hyspa. No one is excluded from the promise of possibility.
~~ Ultimately, this being Paris headed for World War 1, there is also a sense of nostalgia that creeps into the lilting fall of the melody – “Burned in the same flames, In dreams of love.”
~~ And this, being Satie, remains a quintessentially Parisian mélodie, as happy in the parlour as it would be in a recital hall.
George Barbier (1882–1932) Fashion Illustration c.1914
Download Free Sheet Music of “Je te veux” (Erik Satie)
Proof that these publications are in the Public Doman are to be found HERE.
Je te veux (Music: Erik Satie (1897) / Text: Henry Pacory) Original Frenc Text
J’ai compris ta détresse,
Et je cède à tes voeux:
Fais de moi ta maîtresse.
Loin de nous la sagesse,
Plus de détresse,J’aspire à l’instant précieux
Où nous serons heureux:
Je te veux.Je n’ai pas de regrets,
Et je n’ai qu’une envie:
Près de toi, là, tout près,
Vivre toute ma vie.
Que mon coeur soit le tien
Et ta lèvre la mienne,
Que ton corps soit le mien,
Et que toute ma chair soit tienne.
J’ai compris ta détresse, etc.
Oui, je vois dans tes yeux
La divine promesse
Que ton coeur amoureux
Vient chercher ma caresse.
Enlacés pour toujours,
Brûlés des mêmes flammes,
Dans des rêves d’amours,
Nous échangerons nos deux âmes.
Je te veux (Music: Erik Satie (1897) / Text: Henry Pacory), translated into English by Albert Combrink as “I want you“I understand your distress,
And I yield to your wishes:
Make me your mistress.
Far from us is wisdom,
more the distress,
I aspire to the precious moment
Where we will be happy:
I want you.I have no regrets,
And I have only one desire:
Next you, there, very close,
to live my life.
Let my heart be yours
And your lips to mine,
That your body is mine,
And all my flesh is yours.
I understand your distress, etc..
Yes, I see in your eyes
the divine promise
of your loving heart
Just comes to search out my caress.
Burned in the same flames,
In dreams of love,
We exchange our two souls.
Some Recordings of “Je te veux” (Erik Satie)
Jessye Norman (Soprano) & Dalton Baldwin (Piano)
“Je te veux” arranged as a Duette by Bruno Laplante (Baritone) and France Duval (Mezzo-Soprano) – Pianist uncredited in this live recording in Quebec
“Tenderement”, a Satie/Hyspa creation in the style of “Je te Veux” with Bruno Laplante (Baritone) & Marc Durand (Piano)
An original cello arrangement of “Je te Veux” performed by the arrangers, Sarah Acres (cello) and Albert Combrink (piano)
Suzanne Valadon’s son gained fame as a painter, his reputation under the name Utrillo eventually eclipsing that of his mother’s. “La Place du Tertre” circa 191
The insatiable thirst for everything which lies beyond, and which life reveals, is the most living proof of our immortality. (Charles Baudelaire) Henri Duparc (1848-1933). There are composers, and then there is Duparc. There is French song and then there is Duparc. Even if all he wrote was this one song, his name would be […]
The insatiable thirst for everything which lies beyond, and which life reveals, is the most living proof of our immortality. (Charles Baudelaire)
Jacob Isaackszoon van Ruisdael (or Ruysdael) (c. 1628-1682): Bij Duurstede – These clouds, the boat and the ocean, conjure up the world of Duparc’s great song.
Henri Duparc (1848-1933).
There are composers, and then there is Duparc. There is French song and then there is Duparc. Even if all he wrote was this one song, his name would be immortal. What a curious story: a highly original and gifted composer with a nationalist passion for French music so passionate that he became one of the founder members of a society of French Composers. He wrote a handful of songs, regarded as the definitive arrival of the French Artsong. Then at 37, he abruptly ceases to compose and destroys every single one of his compositions he could lay his hands on. The last 48 years of his life he spent in musical silence, tending to his family, painting a bit, taking refuge in his religious faith.
Graham Johnson writes: “He is a prince amongst composers, admitted into the royal enclosure…” [Johnson, Graham & Stokes, Richard: “A French Song Companion”, Oxford University Press, New York, 2000, P.164]
He went to Lourdes, hoping to find a cure of a mysterious condition which killed all desire to create. A mental illness, diagnosed at the time as “neurasthenia“, caused him abruptly to cease composing at age 37, in 1885. The fact that he went blind as well, seems a terrible price to pay for the glory of the 17 or so songs which survived.
Emile Deroy (1820 – 46): Portrait of Charles Baudelaire (painted c.1844)
I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy (Charles Baudelaire)
Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. Inspired by a brief but intense love for the actress Marie Daubrun, his most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire’s highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé among many others. He is credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.
The poem is remarkably un-erotic in direct meaning – given the subtext – but a voluptuous, sensuous quality pervades. The poet is attempting to seduce the object of his desire. The voyage promises the pleasures of the eye, ear, mind, and yes, certainly the body as well. The journey the lover is being invited on is the fulfillment of their dreams, as much as any physical place.
Jacob Isaaksz. van Ruisdael (c. 1628-1682)
~~~~ My child, my sister, Think of the rapture To go there, live together, Love at leisure, Love and death in the country that looks like you.
From the opening notes, we are on the water. The boat is already sailing.The quasi-tremolandos remind one briefly of Shéhérazade, Ravel’s oriental creature of delight and mystery, still to arrive in 1898. But these are measured semi-quavers, not quivers.
There is an old-world restraint and grandeur about this journey. This is not an impetuous young lover ready to whisk is beloved away to some foreign shore where they will have make passionate love under gawdy tropical flowers, living on fruit and sunlight. This is an older lover, already aware that his beloved’s eyes are hides treachery, that their love is already doomed to die. He compares the changeable landscape to the emotions of his beloved – hardly a recipe for a lifetime of marital bliss. The doom and depth of emotion in those first few bars are reminiscent of Fauré’sAutomne, but in particular it is the fall on the second bar, to the augmented 6th that exerts an emotional pull unique to Duparc. Wagnerian without the megalomania, it sets us up for a journey unlike any we have been on before.
As the poet imagines the joys of them living together, the dark C Minor gives way to a ray of C Major light breaking through the clouds.
The poet describes how they will live: to love endlessly and to die. “Aimer à loisir, Aimer et mourir” Duparc creates a melodic cell as instantly memorable as it is encapsulating of the dichotomy it is expressing. Languorously stretching up to the high G, it droops back down to the D.
~~~~ Wet suns, These scrambled skies that hold such mysterious charms for my spirit, of your treacherous eyes, shining through their tears…
Extraordinarily expressive harmonies describe the unsettled skies, and the appeal they hold for the poet is partly because of the very insecurity – both of the physical landscape, as much as the “treacherous eyes” of his beloved. As he describes tears running from her eyes, the key changes again to an illuminated C Major.
~~~~ There all is order and beauty, Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.
Here followsUn peu plus vite, a passage that seems to suspend all movement. The poet is creating an idealised vision of the life they will live, suspended forever in a state of love and bliss, where all is Luxe, calme et volupté, variously translated as Luxury, calm and voluptuousness,or allure, Luxury, calm and pleasure or even beauty, Luxury, peace, and pleasure. Chords spread across the entire keyboard are held, while the voice abandons its augmented intervals and sensual extensions above the stave, and trails off to “quasi-parlando” recitative on the same note -first the higher C, then dropping to the lower G, as the poet descends into an inner world. But is it a dream? Perhaps a memory? A wish?
~~~~ See on the canals sleep these vessels whose mood is those of wandering vagabondes; This is to satisfy your slightest desire, they come from the ends of the world.
As if opening his eyes from this exquisite dream, the rolling semi-quavers describe what he sees:
Salomon van Ruisdael – The Habour
Since Duparc leaves out verse 2 of Baudelaire’s poem, it isn’t immediately clear if the poet and object of his affection are still standing looking at the boats that would take them to the Orient, or if he is describing what they see once they arrive. The rolling semi-quavers of the opening recreate the shimmering surface of the water, in which the boats are reflected that have traveled across the vast oceans to fulfill her every wish. This passage is truncated and moves into one of the trickiest passages to play smoothly and evenly.
~~~~ The setting suns clothe the fields, the canals, the whole city, in hyacinth and gold; The world is asleep in warm light.
The notes shimmer like the most effective Impressionist paintings, and this time, when the warm light of C Major beaks though, it is a real glowing Fortissimo.
Amid the filigree of fantasy, Duparc combines two wonderful thoughts he had earlier
The theme about loving for ever, and dying (“Aimer à loisir, Aimer et mourir” ) is combined with the repetition of the description of their perfect love. (“Luxe, calme et volupté”)
In one gesture, Duparc creates a Voyage that is both physical and spiritual. The journey is both internal and external. Like Johannes Vermeer’s Astronomer, the journey is undertaken without leaving the study. As if he can see the entire trajectory of the relationship, before even embarking on it.
Johannes Vermeer – Astonomer
“L’invitation au Voyage“, from Les Fleurs du Mal, in 1. Spleen et Idéal, no. 53 (Original French Text by Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), English translation by Albert Combrink)
Duparc sets only verses 1 and 3 of the original complete poem, found HERE.
It is virtually impossible to translate this poem successfully: Literal translations lose the essential rhythmic beauty of the poem, and poetic versions lose the essence of the meaning. Since I use this article for my personal study, I have erred on the side of the literal. Greater literary minds than myself can tackle this problem. I wish merely to make the meaning of the words as clear as possible for the student of this great work. There are however many translations available online. I refer you to a very meaningful versions by J.K. Ellis, William Aggeler and Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose creative translations add immensely to one’s understanding of the poem.
Verse 1 (French)
Mon enfant, ma sœur,
Songe à la douceur
D’aller là-bas vivre ensemble,
Aimer à loisir,
Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble.
Les soleils mouillés
De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
De tes traîtres yeux,
Brillant à travers leurs larmes.
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté
Luxe, calme et volupté.
Verse 1 (English)
My child, my sister,
Think of the rapture
To go there, live together,
Love at leisure,
Love and death
in the country that looks like you.
These scrambled skies
For my spirit the charms
Of your treacherous eyes,
Shining through their tears.
There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.
Verse 3 (In Fench)
Vois sur ces canaux
Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l’humeur est vagabonde;C’est pour assouvir
Ton moindre désir
Qu’ils viennent du bout du monde.
Les soleils couchants
Revêtent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entière,
D’hyacinthe et d’or;
Le monde s’endort
Dans une chaude lumière!
Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.
Verse 3 (In English)
See on the canals
Sleep these vessels
Whose mood is those of wandering vagabondes;
This is to satisfy
Your slightest desire
They come from the ends of the world.
The suns which are setting
Clothe the fields,
The canals, the whole city,
In hyacinth and gold;
The world is asleep
In warm light!
There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, calm and
Download Free Sheet Music (PDF) of L’invitation au Voyage by Heni Duparc:
The Société Nationale de Musique was founded on February 25, 1871 to promote French music and to allow young composers to present their music in public. The motto was “Ars gallica“. It was founded by Romain Bussine and Camille Saint-Saëns, who shared the presidency, and early members included César Franck, Ernest Guiraud, Jules Massenet, Jules Garcin, Gabriel Fauré, Alexis de Castillon, Henri Duparc, Théodore Dubois, and Paul Taffanel. It was conceived in reaction to the tendency in French music to favor vocal and operatic music over orchestral music, and to further the cause of French music in contrast to the Germanic tradition. “They were determined to unite in their efforts to spread the gospel of French music and to make known the works of living French composers. . . . According to their statutes . . . their intention was to act ‘in brotherly unity, with an absolute forgetfulness of self'” [Vallas, Léon. César Franck. Tr. by Hubert J. Foss from La véritable histoire de César Franck (1949). London: Harap, 1951. Reprinted Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1973, P.135]
L’invitation au Voyage: other settings
The magnificent peom was imortalised by (Marie Eugène) Henri (Fouques) Duparc (1848-1933) who wrote “L’invitation au Voyage” in 1870, published 1894, stanzas 1,3.
Other settings of this poem include:
~ Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, 1918.
~ Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, 1870.
~ Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, 1895, published 1895, from Les Fleurs du Mal, no. 4.
~ Jules Cressonois (1823-1883) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, 1863.
~ Alphons Diepenbrock (1862-1921) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, 1913.
~ Benjamin Louis Paul Godard (1849-1895) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, op. 114, published c1889, stanzas 1,3 [voice and piano], Paris, Durand & Schoenewerck
~ Aleksandr Tikhonovich Gretchaninov (1864-1956) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, op. 48 no. 2, from Les Fleurs du Mal, no. 2, note: also set in Russian
~ Lucien Hillemacher (1860-1909) and by Paul Hillemacher (1852-1933) , “L’invitation au Voyage”, from Vingt Mélodies, no. ?
~ Georges Adolphe Hüe (1858-1948) , “L’invitation au Voyage”